Have you ever taken the long drive to Buffalo, NY to catch a flight because it was cheaper than flying from your hometown? Or perhaps you’ve crossed the border from British Columbia to Washington State to catch a plan from Bellingham International? You’re not alone; each year roughly five million Canadian travellers cross the United States border on land in order to fly from U.S. airports, according a recent study by the Conference Board of Canada.
Called Driven Away, the report finds fees and taxes levied by the federal and provincial governments are often blamed on the relatively high airfares in Canada. Those fees and taxes are certainly a large and significant contributing factor. However, other factors are also at play, such as air carrier productivity levels and U.S. aviation policies and fees.
The CBC is suggesting all levels of government can take steps to change airline passenger’s minds. They say it would bring back at least two million of those lost customers – and keep that money in the Canadian economy.
Reduce Airfare Taxes
The CBC says by reducing the gap in prices between the Canadian airfare and American airfare, millions of Canadians will choose to fly from home. This can only happen if governments and airlines reduce their tax structure. While this reduction would lower government receipts in the short term, much of this would be recaptured through direct and indirect tax revenues generated by the additional traffic originating in Canada, the CBC says.
Posher Passenger Service
North Americans want the same treatment wherever the fly. If U.S airlines are providing a better service, especially for less money, travelers are more likely to go south to catch their flight. The CBC report recommends harmonizing the treatment of air passengers with U.S. authorities.
Pool Flight Fees
The fees charged to passengers should be pooled into one large fund, which could then be allocated more effectively. If a plane is traveling with a full load of passengers, fees could be reduced to reflect the average cost. The CBC points out fewer empty seats mean lower costs for passengers. However, when fees are charged directly, air carriers have no ability to vary these fees across their passengers.
Pass Down Discounts
If the government, or the airport, is giving the airline a break on costs, that should be reflected in the airline consumer’s costs for the airline ticket. If Canadian airports believe that they are losing traffic in part due to the higher prices that they must charge to cover rent payments made to the Government of Canada, they could offer a direct cut in the airport improvement fee in exchange for an equivalent reduction of rents.
The report focused on three Canadian airports: Vancouver International Airport (YVR), Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), and Montréal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL), along with their cross-border competitors: Bellingham International Airport (BLI), Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF), Burlington International Airport in Vermont (BTV/PBG) Here’s how Canadians airports fees compare to American:
Average Fares From Canadian Airports and Their Cross-Border Competitors